The Time To Plan For The Future Is Now.
Why do I need a Trust, and not just a Will?
Well, for most people, the simple answer is: To avoid Probate. If you have a Trust, the law says that the person you have named as your Successor Trustee is legally authorized to handle the distribution of your Estate after you die. There is no Court involvement required, and no Government involvement required.
However, if you have no Trust, but only a Will, (or if you have no Estate Planning documents at all) the law says that your Estate must go through Probate (unless your Estate is very small, or if you leave a surviving spouse and have no separate property assets). Probate is essentially a Court-supervised distribution of your Estate. The Probate process is long, complicated, and expensive. A Probate will have your assets tied up in Court for one to two years -- maybe longer.
The time involved is a problem, but what is worse is the Probate FEES. The Probate fees are set by law, and the money goes to the Attorney and the executor who handle the Probate. The fees are based on a percentage of the value of your Estate. Do you own a home, but have only a little bit of equity? This may make you feel like your estate is fairly small. However, Probate fees are calculated based on the fair market value of your home and other assets, and NOT based on your equity in those assets. With California property values, this is a big deal. For example, if the combined value of your home and other probatable assets is one million dollars, the Probate fees would be $46,000 dollars. That’s how much your loved ones would have to pay before they can inherit what is left of your hard-earned money.
Can't I just use a Do-it-yourself Trust?
Many people contemplate preparing their own Trust from a website, in order to save money. They do their own taxes, why not do their own Trust? The problem is that the average person has no knowledge or understanding of the way a Trust should be set up, and they do not input the information into the website properly. The Trust that is generated is then set up incorrectly, and will not distribute their assets according to their wishes. If you make a mistake on your taxes, you might be audited. If you make a mistake on your Trust documents, no one will know about it until after you die, when it is too late to fix it. The trust you prepare yourself is legally binding, including any unintended errors. It just makes more sense to have your Estate Plan prepared by someone who is experienced and knowledgeable.